Swiss private bank Julius Baer has hired eight staff from rival Sarasin to cover Greater China, AsianInvestor can reveal. It comes after Julius Baer failed in its bid to acquire Rabobank’s majority shareholding in Sarasin, a stake eventually bought by Brazil-based Safra Group.

Elina So, who quit late last year as Sarasin’s vice-chair of client advisory, started at Julius Baer on January 3 as a senior client partner covering Greater China and heads this new Hong Kong-based team, according to an internal memo seen by AsianInvestor.

She reports to Tom Meier, CEO for Asia and the Middle East, and will report directly to Kaven Leung when he comes on board in April.

Just last October Julius Baer announced Leung’s appointment from Goldman Sachs as its incoming deputy Asia chief and North Asia CEO, as well as chief executive of its recently established Hong Kong branch. These are roles that Meier has taken on following the unexpected departure of former North Asia head Andrea Benenati in the middle of last year.

Julius Baer confirms it is still searching for a head of China after the exit of Pauline Chung last year. She turned up at Bank of Singapore in December as one of its market heads with the title head of strategic planning for Greater China.

Joining So’s team at Julius Baer are Candy Lam (So’s sister) and Carol Yau as senior relationship managers, Camille Suen as relationship manager, and Jenny Wong, Vera Shau, Vicki Li and Kary Ho as assistants.

AsianInvestor also understands that Eddie Koh has also joined Julius Baer from Sarasin, where he was part of its investment consulting team.

News of these hires comes after Enid Yip, Sarasin’s Asia CEO, told AsianInvestor earlier this week that it had made three senior promotions internally in a drive to strengthen its market focus on China and Southeast Asia.

This included naming Karen Leung vice-chair of client advisory (in what appears to be a head of Greater China role) and Polly Lam as head of China and managing director.

“We have never had a China head before,” said Yip, noting that she expects to file an application to establish a representative office in Shanghai in the first quarter of this year. “There was an interim period because we had a change of major shareholder. Now we have no more uncertainty, so we can go full steam into China.”

Last November it emerged that Safra Group had agreed to acquire Rabobank’s controlling stake in Bank Sarasin & Cie for around $1.1 billion as it sought to expand its private banking presence in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. It purchased 68% of the voting rights and a 46% equity interest.

But Sarasin disputes that these exits have decimated its Greater China team, noting that it wanted to dispel such rumours and reassert its China strategy in its recent interview.

“We still have what we consider to be a very strong greater China team,” a spokeswoman for the firm says, noting it has 12 relationship managers and seven assistants covering Greater China, out of an Asia total of 42 RMs.